Elemental zoning enhances mass transport in zeolite catalysts for methanol to hydrocarbons

TT Le and W Qin and A Agarwal and N Nikolopoulos and DL Fu and MD Patton and C Weiland and SR Bare and JC Palmer and BM Weckhuysen and JD Rimer, NATURE CATALYSIS, 6, 254-+ (2023).

DOI: 10.1038/s41929-023-00927-2

Mass transport limitations in zeolite catalysts pose major hurdles for their optimal performance in diverse chemical reactions. Most approaches to reduce these restrictions focus on the synthesis of either hierarchical or nanosized zeolites. Here we demonstrate that the existence of a siliceous, catalytically inactive exterior rim on ZSM-5 particles dramatically reduces the diffusion limitations, which leads to an enhanced catalyst lifetime for the methanol-to-hydrocarbon reaction. Our findings reveal that binary inorganic and organic structure- directing agents enable a one-pot synthesis of Si-zoned ZSM-5 catalysts with diffusion properties that are characteristic of particles with a much smaller size. Operando ultraviolet-visible light diffuse reflectance spectroscopy reveals a marked reduction in external coking among Si-zoned samples. Molecular dynamics simulations to assess the diffusion of methanol and benzene in siliceous pores and in those with Bronsted acids reveal substantially reduced transport limitations in zoned regions, consistent with the improved catalyst activity of Si- zoned zeolites relative to that of ZSM-5 with a homogeneous acid-site distribution.

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